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Afghan Taliban Camps Were Built by NATO
The New York Times August 24, 1998


[A note from Emperor's Clothes: This 'N.Y. Times' article appeared shortly after the U.S. bombed a pill factory in Sudan and facilities in Afghanistan. Pres. Clinton went on TV and said the Afghan facilities the U.S. had bombed were "...terrorist facilities and infrastructure in Afghanistan. Our forces targeted one of the most active terrorist bases in the world...a training camp for literally thousands of terrorists from around the globe." ('N.Y. Times', 8/21/98, p. a12.) The 'Times' coverage of the bombing attacks is discussed in 'Credible Deception' at http://emperors-clothes.com/articles/jared/sudan.html ]

Throughout the 1980's, the Soviet Union threw almost every weapon it had, short of nuclear bombs, at the Afghan camps attacked by the United States last week.

During their nine-year occupation of Afghanistan, the Soviets attacked the camps outside the town of Khost with Scud missiles, 500-pound bombs dropped from jets, barrages of artillery, flights of helicopter gunships and their crack special forces. The toughest Soviet commander in Afghanistan, Lieut. Gen. Boris Gromov, personally led the last assault.

But neither carpet bombing nor commandos drove the Afghan holy warriors from the mountains. Afghanistan has a long history of repelling superpowers. Its terrain favors defenders as well as any in the world, whether their opponents, like the Soviets, are trying to defeat them on the ground or whether, like the United States, they are trying to disperse, deter and disrupt them. It is uncertain that the United States, which fired dozens of million-dollar cruise missiles at those same camps on Thursday, can do better than the Soviets.

The camps, hidden in the steep mountains and mile-deep valleys of Paktia province, were the place where all seven ranking Afghan resistance leaders maintained underground headquarters, mountain redoubts and clandestine weapons stocks during their bitter and ultimately successful war against Soviet troops from December 1979 to February 1989, according to American intelligence veterans.

The Afghan resistance was backed by the intelligence services of the United States and Saudi Arabia with nearly $6 billion worth of weapons. And the territory targeted last week, a set of six encampments around Khost, where the Saudi exile Osama bin Laden has financed a kind of "terrorist university," in the words of a senior United States intelligence official, is well known to the Central Intelligence Agency.

The C.I.A.'s military and financial support for the Afghan rebels indirectly helped build the camps that the United States attacked. And some of the same warriors who fought the Soviets with the C.I.A.'s help are now fighting under Mr. bin Laden's banner.

From those same camps, the Afghan rebels, known as mujahedeen, or holy warriors, kept up a decadelong siege on the Soviet-supported garrison town of Khost.

Thousands of mujahedeen were dug into the mountains around Khost. Soviet accounts of the siege of Khost during 1988 referred to the rebel camps as "the last word in NATO engineering techniques." After a decade of fighting during which each side claimed to have killed thousands of the enemy, the Afghan rebels poured out of their encampments and took Khost.

"This was the most fiercely contested piece of real estate in the 10-year Afghan war," said Milt Bearden, who ran the C.I.A.'s side of the war from 1986 to 1989.

United States officials said their attack was intended to deter Mr. bin Laden, whom they call the financier and intellectual author of this month's bombings of two American embassies in Africa, which killed 263 people, including 12 Americans. They said the damage inflicted on the Khost camps was moderate to heavy.

But the communications infrastructure used by Mr. bin Laden is based on portable satellite telephones, not a centralized command-and-control system that can be destroyed with a missile, intelligence officials said. The strongest power that binds his loose-knit network of confederates is his money, which is hidden inside a thus-far impenetrable global maze.

And history does not favor superpowers trying to subdue men dug into the mountains of Afghanistan.

Mr. bin Laden has said he spent the 1980's supporting the mujahedeen from their political base in Peshawar, Pakistan, near the foot of the Khyber Pass. He was most strongly allied with the most fundamentalist leaders of the Afghan resistance, particularly Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the head of the group called the Islamic Party. After the fall of the Soviet-backed Government, Mr. Hekmatyar spent most of his brief tenure as Prime Minister hurling missiles and mortars at Kabul, trying to dislodge more moderate rebel leaders from power.

The more militant Afghan rebels, like Mr. Hekmatyar, denounced the United States and backed Iraq during the Persian Gulf war in 1991, as did Mr. bin Laden. A year after the Persian Gulf war, posters throughout eastern Afghanistan displayed heroic, if imaginary, portraits of Saddam Hussein and Mr. Hekmatyar standing side by side.

No amount of money or moral support could keep the veterans of the Afghan resistance from killing one another after the fall of Kabul. The chaos that their infighting created led to the rise of the Taliban, the militant armed religious party that now controls most of Afghanistan and harbors Mr. bin Laden.

In the nine years since the Soviet withdrawal, Afghan resistance veterans have hoarded the remaining weapons sent by the C.I.A. and set up military training centers at resistance camps like the one near Khost, according to United States officials. In those years, thousands of Islamic outcasts, radicals and visionaries from around the world came to the borderlands of Afghanistan to learn the lessons of war from the mujahedeen. Mr. bin Laden sponsored many of those foreigners.

In a 1994 interview, a commander loyal to Mr. Hekmatyar, Noor Amin, said that "the whole country is a university for jihad," or holy war.

"There are many formal training centers," Mr. Amin said. "We have had Egyptians, Sudanese, Arabs and other foreigners trained here as assassins." United States officials said the former mujahedeen camps it attacked on Thursday were precisely that kind of "university for jihad."

Mr. bin Laden, stripped of his Saudi citizenship and formally stateless, returned to the anarchy of Afghanistan in 1996 from the Sudan, where United States intelligence analysts believe he built at least three training camps for veterans of the Afghan war.

He said in an interview with CNN last year that one of his main missions during the war, which he helped finance with millions of dollars of his own money, was to transport bulldozers, front-end loaders and other heavy equipment to Pakistan to help build tunnels, military depots and roads inside Afghanistan for the mujahedeen.

It is unclear whether Mr. bin Laden, who inherited about $250 million from a fortune his father made building mosques, palaces and public works for the Saudi royal family, personally helped build the Khost camps during the war against the Soviets, or has substantially upgraded them since returning to the mountains of Afghanistan.

[(c) 'N.Y.Times', 1998, Reprinted for Fair Use Only]

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